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Hot Zone Question

Ed Rybicki ED at molbiol.uct.ac.za
Fri Mar 24 04:28:46 EST 1995

> To:            virology at net.bio.net
> From:          mowjmat at coop.crn.org (Biology Department)
> Subject:       Re: Hot Zone Question

>  George McCabe <xrghm at lepvax.gsfc.nasa.gov> wrote
> What motivates "random" mutations in an organism like a
> virus?  
> 	By no means did I intend to ascribe an intelligence to viruses, 
> but random mutations are strictly that--random mutations.  These could be 
> brought about by the means you suggested or errors in DNA replication, 
> modification of the viral DNA by the host, etc.  There are lots a 
> mechanisms by which random mutations arise.  Here the term "random" just 
> refers to the topological position of the mutation in the genome and that 
> there is not a 'force' that directs mutations toward any pre-established end.
> As for why Ebola and similar strains were not detected, no one may have 
> ever looked.  If Ebola is highly lethal and localized to the deep 
> interiors of the tropical jungle, then it is unlikely that scientists 
> will notice the virus.  The latter idea has been used to argue for more 
> bio-watch centers in the tropical rainforest.  Some people argue that if 
> such centers were around twenty years ago we would not have the current 
> problem with HIV.  (but the latter is not my opinion).

...and it appears that the so-called monkeypox virus (which looks 
like smallpox on humans but isn't as lethal as variola major) isn't - that it 
is in fact a virus of small arboreal mammals other than monkeys, that 
live deeper in the forests of Zaire and other Central African 
countries and further from human contact.  So there are a number of 
nasties lurking about in rain forests which have no well 
characterised reservoir, just waiting for settlements to come by so 
they can jump into humanity...god reason to keep the chain saws out 
of the forests, hmmm?

 | Ed Rybicki, PhD          |    "Lord, won't you buy me    |
 | (ed at molbiol.uct.ac.za)   |                               |
 | Dept Microbiology        |      A Mer-ce-des Benz..."    |
 | University of Cape Town  |                               |
 | Private Bag, Rondebosch  |"My friends all drive Porsches |
 | 7700, South Africa       |                               |
 | fax: 27-21-650 4023      |      I must make amends..."   |
 | phone: 650-3265          |  (Janis Joplin, Pearl, 1971)  |

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